Protest in Athens against overcrowding refugee camps
06 Dec 2017, 01:28 ( 9 days ago)
Residents and officials from the north Aegean Sea islands demonstrated outside the Ministry of Immigration in Athens on Tuesday demanding the government to take measures to decongest the islands from the overcrowded refugee camps.
"We won't allow Lesvos and all the islands from examples of humanity and solidarity to turn into prisons for thousands of people," Spyros Galinos, the mayor of Lesvos, told reporters.
People from the islands that have been at the forefront of the refugee crisis over the last years arrived at the port of Piraeus and headed to Klathmonos square in the center of Athens in front of the Immigration Ministry to stage their protest.
"People from Chios, Samos and Mytilene have come here to show to the minster that we cannot afford all that. It is too much to have for so long-time people coming again and again without having the adequate infrastructure, not only material infrastructure. It is the legal infrastructure and the infrastructure in terms of human resources in order to implement a policy," Manolis Vournous, mayor of Chios said.
Under the 2016 EU-Turkey agreement, refugees and migrants reaching the islands cannot travel to the mainland until their asylum bids are examined.
As a result, more than 13,000 people are crowded into islands' camps.
Last month, Greek Migration Minister Yannis Mouzalas said that Greece intends to create among other measures more reception centers on the Aegean Sea islands and the mainland to decongest the existing camps, as well as house people on ships if deemed necessary.
Local authorities objected to the creation of more hotspots on the islands calling instead for the transfer of more people to the mainland.
The protesters urged for immediate measures related with the increasingly precarious and overcrowded conditions for newly arriving migrants and refugees in the camps.
"The EU has to take real measures and enforce real policies. If a policy operates at the expense of the island or the refugees, it is not a real policy," Vournous stressed.
Ahead of Erdogan's visit to Athens on Dec. 7-8, mayors were asked what message the Greek government should deliver to the Turkish president concerning the refugee crisis and the EU-Turkey deal.
All three agreed that the agreement does not work but were not responsible to take a policy on that.
"I don't have the competence to send a message of policy. I have to send a message of protection of human rights and civil rights," the mayor of Samos, Michalis Angelopoulos noted.
For his part, Angelopoulos said that the situation in Samos was critical and difficult as there are 3,171 refugees stranded. "We are going to drive on and export the crisis and the protest to Brussels," he said.
After the demonstration, the three mayors held talks with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras asking for the government to take measures.
Following talks, the three local officials said Tsipras was informed about the problems they are facing and agreed on the need to act, the Athens News Agency AMNA reported.
Lesvos mayor Galinos said they asked the prime minister to find a solution as soon as possible, noting that "we were in complete agreement".